Radical Environmentalists Undermine Human Progress

The following article originally was published October 26 by Grand Junction’s Free Press.

Radical environmentalists undermine human progress

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

The documentary Not Evil, Just Wrong apparently draws its title from an interview with an advocate of DDT, the pesticide sprayed in the U.S. decades ago to wipe out malaria by killing disease-causing mosquitos. Thanks to radical (and dishonest) environmentalists, such as Al Gore’s hero Rachel Carson, international bans on DDT helped cause millions of deaths from malaria in developing nations.

The DDT advocate says that he doesn’t think these environmentalists are evil, just wrong. Yet they advocated policies that caused misery and death for millions of human beings, and they continue to advocate policies that would devastate the global economy and cause more death particularly among the world’s poor.

Your younger author attended a free screening of the documentary October 18 at an event sponsored by the Independence Institute. The same night the documentary also streamed online.

In addition to reviewing the history of DDT, the documentary also pokes holes in some of the major “global warming” claims, including the infamous “hockey stick” graph and claims that recent years have been the warmest on record. Indeed, even the BBC recently admitted that we seem to be headed into a relative cool spell.

The documentary also offers some historical perspective. The earth has gotten warmer and cooler many times over the ages for entirely natural reasons. And, since the beginning of human civilization, some people have been predicting the apocalypse. The global cooling scare is just a few decades old, the documentary reminds us, and some scientists quickly jumped from global cooling to global warming fear mongering.

Unfortunately, while the documentary is better than the work of, say, Al Gore or Michael Moore, it drops the ball on a number of important points.

The film should have offered more information about the earth’s natural warming and cooling cycles, including theories attempting to explain them.

The film says that replacing coal with windmills and solar panels would be economically devastating, and we agree, but the film doesn’t offer much detail on the matter. Nor does the film discuss nuclear power generation in Europe or, potentially, in the U.S.

The film doesn’t even clarify its view on global warming. The film seems to alternately suggest that human-caused global warming is unreal or overstated, that some global warming might be a good thing, and that we’ll be able to develop the technology required to deal with warming.

Critics will legitimately ask: if human-caused global warming is real, and if it will cause harm, and if we can deal with that harm technologically, then why can’t we also explore new technology to reduce CO2 emissions in the first place?

The film plausibly argues that reducing U.S. CO2 emissions would merely shift emissions to China and other developing nations, where coal burning tends to be a lot dirtier. However, the film could have offered considerably more detail on the projected impacts on CO2 emissions from anti-industrial “cap-and-trade” proposals.

A better documentary would have clearly articulated these themes. Radical environmentalists grossly exaggerate human-caused global warming and the potential harms of it. Industry operating in relatively free markets has progressively created cleaner and more abundant energy, leading to dramatic improvements to human life, and it should have the freedom to continue. More political controls on energy will stifle industry and innovation while trivially impacting global CO2 emissions.

There is a broad sense in which we are practically all environmentalists. We all want to breath clean air, drink clean water, and eat healthy food. We all want to limit our exposure to dangerous chemicals. More broadly we want to live and work in comfortable homes and offices in a productive and economically expanding society. We want what’s good for people, and we want an environment conducive to human life.

But radical environmentalists often see people as the enemy. Some environmentalists have likened people to a virus or plague, lamented the growing human population, and hoped for human-killing diseases and catastrophes.

Such environmentalists tend to make two basic errors. First, they see untouched nature as intrinsically valuable. They have no problem with natural climate change, smoke, or chemicals. They just dislike anything that people do to alter nature. Second, they see people as unnatural, as something apart from nature and disruptive to it.

We view nature as good for people. We enjoy wilderness areas for their recreational value. We enjoy the products of mines, tree farms, and factories. We see people as part of the environment, and our proper goal is to use and modify nature for our own benefit.

Radical environmentalists opposed human industry long before the global warming scare. If the earth cools again, they will soon offer some other pretext to destroy human development.

We do not know whether human-caused global warming will ever pose significant challenges for people. But we do know that radical environmentalists pose a grave threat to human progress and life.